Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Benshoof seventh heading into Sunday; Olympics check-in

Posted by: Michael Russo under Olympic luge Updated: February 13, 2010 - 11:47 PM

Good evening from the Whistler media center, where I have a half-hour before I jump on the 10 p.m. bus back to Vancouver media center. Would have made the 9 p.m. bus if not for the bus situation over at the Whistler Sliding Centre, but I digress.

Spent the day up at Blackcomb Mountain, which is spectacular. Very sad being at the Sliding Centre, especially standing next to the spot where Nodar Kumaritashvili lost his life. Flowers lay there now, and if front of that now-padded steel pole was a 12-foot wooden wall over the track to try to keep lugers on there.

You can read my story tomorrow, but the International Luge Federation investigated the accident and concluded that it was driver error, not track safety that cost the Georgian luger his all-too short life. Still, they raised the wall, shaved the ice to keep lugers from drifting high at the 16th turn, padded the poles and shortened the track, having lugers pull the handles off the women's ramp instead of the men's.

It made for a completely different slide -- a much slower one, which affected lugers like White Bear Lake's Tony Benshoof, whom I wrote a feature on in Saturday's paper. He's currently in seventh place, less than a second off the lead, heading into Sunday's 3 p.m. CT third head and 5 p.m. CT fourth heat.

Remember, Benshoof felt lugers would hit 100 mph on the old track. Tonight, only four lugers even hit 90, and none were Benshoof.

Doesn't it sound like I know what I'm talking about?

I'll tell ya, it was a gorgeous night out there. I've been in a lot of snow living in Minnesota and traveling to Denver and Western Canada all the time, but tonight was amazing. With pitch blackness in the distance and the stadium lights, the look of the snow was pretty sensational. Kind of therapeutic. Of course, I say this before tomorrow's bronchitis hits.

Benshoof was in good spirits and seemed convinced that after a little video analysis tonight, he can make up time and become the first American ever to medal in men's singles luge. Easier said than done, though.

I'll be back up here Sunday to document what is likely his last two Olympic runs ever. Then, starting Monday, I hit the hockey beat. I hope I can remember the verbiage.

Good night.

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